5 interesting people I met at the 2022 Rotary Convention

By Jeris Gaston, Rotary Club of Birmingham, Alabama, USA

A Rotary convention is a time to reflect upon the past year, look forward to the year ahead, and connect with friends, old and new, from around the globe. But it’s also a celebration of all things Rotary. The people gathered together are what make this event special. Being together again, in person, after a two-year hiatus made the 2022 Rotary International Convention in Houston even more sweet. A big part of convention is meeting people. So in that spirit, I want to introduce you to five interesting Rotarians I met in Houston:

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Suddenly, the war knocked on our door

Oksana Havryliv and volunteers
Oksana Havryliv takes a selfie with some of the volunteers bringing medicine, food and other relief supplies to be reloaded and distributed. Photo by Oksana Havryliv

By Oksana Havryliv, Rotaract Club of Lviv International

Before the war, I was a student in international relations at the university in Ukraine and had been pursuing a master’s degree in political science through the University of Vienna. I dreamed of becoming a diplomat and representing Ukraine. I was busy with studies, planning my life, and hanging out with friends, especially those in Rotaract. That all changed on 24 February when Russia invaded my country and the bombs began to fall.

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Rotaract and Rotary serving together

Ignacio Gonzales Mendez in front of One Rotary Center
Ignacio Gonzales Mendez in front of One Rotary Center during a meeting of the Elevate Rotaract Task Force in 2020

By Ignacio Gonzalez Mendez, a member of the Rotaract Club of Oriente de Talca, Chile

I must confess, I didn’t set out to find Rotary. Rotary found me. I became involved in Rotary through a series of fortunate events which has changed the way I look at everything.

When I was 13, I volunteered for the Red Cross and that experience led me years later to create a project to establish a first-aid station in my high school. At my graduation ceremony, I was surprised with an award from the local Rotary club for my volunteer work with the Red Cross. The award was in honor of one of my teachers, who passed away unexpectedly. Receiving the award and knowing that my teacher had appreciated my efforts gave me more inspiration to keep volunteering.

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Using our unique talents in Rotaract

Martinez Belo with friend
Maria Valentina Martinez Belo (left) poses with one of the models for the Project Rosa fashion show that benefits cancer patients.

By Maria Valentina Martinez Belo, Rotaract Club of Ing. Boris Walter, Venezuela

We all have different talents. It’s what makes each of us special and unique. I have always felt a strong desire to organize big events and use my creativity to help others and make them feel special. Through Rotaract, I have been able to do that, changing my life and those of the people I have been able to serve.

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Austrian aid convoy drives all night to deliver supplies for Ukraine

Members of the Rotaract Club of Klagenfurt-Wörthersee, Austria, collect supplies,
Members of the Rotaract Club of Klagenfurt-Wörthersee, Austria, collect medical supplies, food, sleeping bags, and generators for transport to the Polish-Ukrainian border.

By Sebastian Adami, Rotaract Club Klagenfurt-Wörthersee, Austria

On the evening of 2 March, I set out with a team of Rotaract members and colleagues from six nations to deliver relief supplies to contacts waiting for us near the border of Poland and Ukraine. Our five-vehicle convoy traveled through the night to get there. But we were heartened by the response we saw all around us, people flashing their lights or giving us other signs of encouragement as they saw our relief supply convoy marked by flags that identified what we were doing.

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Building professional skills across borders

By Mona Mousa, past president of Rotaract Stockholm and its international representative

Mona Mousa
Mona Mousa

I don’t have a professional background in social media management, but I have managed several social media accounts such as Rotaract Stockholm and Rotaract Oceania. In advance of the Global Citizen Live event in Paris in September, the rest of my team decided I should handle the Rotary Instagram page, as they have followed me for a long time.

It was an exciting and a scary opportunity because there are thousands of followers, but I went in with an open mind.

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Working toward a malaria-free Zambia is personal

By Eric Liswaniso, member of the Rotary Club of Ndola and the Rotaract Club of Lusaka, Zambia

One of the most frustrating things about malaria is the preventable suffering it imposes on families. The death of a child or a parent, the loss of work, or economic stability can be devastating.

I lost my parents quite early, and life became very difficult for me and my siblings. Fortunately, with help from family members, I was able to complete my education and support my younger siblings through their schooling. But my experience awakened me to the misfortune of many others, for whom losing a parent leads to a lifetime of suffering. I’m now a husband and the father of a two-year-old daughter, so fighting malaria — which particularly affects children under five and pregnant women — is personal.

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Engaging Rotaract members in your district conference

By Rotary staff

You are on the planning committee for your district conference that will be held in-person and virtually. Part of your committee’s job is to decide how to involve members of Rotaract. Someone suggests they be asked to manage the Zoom registration and provide technical support for virtual participants to leverage their tech skills. However, others mention there could be more meaningful ways to engage Rotaract members in your conference. What would you do?

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Supporting education for girls in Bangladesh

By Abdullah Al Fahad, immediate past president, Rotaract Club of Dhaka Orchid, Bangladesh

Esara is a seven-year-old girl who lives in the Habiganj district of Bangladesh with her mother. She lost her father three years ago when he was killed in a traffic accident. They live on the income of her mother, who barely makes enough to put food on the table.

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A modern brand for a modern club

By Damien Walker, Director of Public Image and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Salisbury City Rotaract Club (Australia)

As the public image director for the Rotaract Club of Salisbury City in Australia, my job is to tell my club’s story. I share how we are a dynamic club that provides the entire Rotaract experience without the need for additional, outside commitment; how we ask our members to come as they are and give as they can; and how we are social club that volunteers and values fellowship and friendship. Additionally, I wear the hat as our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) director where I ensure we offer a welcome space for everyone to thrive.

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